Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Twins, especially before they learn to speak our language, seem to share their own secret language, and communicate in ways that outsiders cannot understand. The two boys in the video clip below (well worth watching, even apart from its adorableness) also demonstrate that the words spoken in a conversation are much less important than we think they are. Perhaps intelligible language even distracts us from understanding the real substance of a conversation. When the words are unintelligible, that allows us to observe more closely the gestures and facial expressions that constitute most of the real communicating that people engage in.

I might be fascinated by this video because I have twins of my own (teenagers now), and I still remember similar scenes of them. (I would post my own home movies, but they would probably not appreciate it.) But I also relate to this video because it reminds me of some of my best moments in mediation. Some of my most successful mediations sound to me just like this video. That’s because I don’t always understand the substance of the discussion as well as the participants do, although I try to, and I don’t necessarily even need to understand the points they are making. The disputants have been living with the controversy for months or years. They have things to say to each other that they need to get off their chests. I, on the other hand, don’t have a stake in the outcome, so I am not trying to push one particular point of view over the other. I don’t always know what needs to be said. I just want to make sure that dialogue is taking place. Most importantly, I want to make sure that the participants are paying close attention to what the other side is saying, and demonstrating that they hear and understand it, even when they disagree. So when I see a dialogue like the one in this video, all I have to do is nod my head and encourage it to continue.

Of course, I know babies well enough to know that, as with litigants, a conversation like this one can turn ugly in a second. The mediator’s role is to step in when that happens. Notice that near the end of this video, each party in turn looks back at the mediator (that would be whomever is holding the camera), perhaps for guidance and reassurance. Maybe it’s comforting for the participants in any dialogue to know that an observer is present to help keep the discussion civil.